Christine Marie Lundy, 38, and her 7-year-old daughter Amber Grace Lundy were murdered in Palmerston North, New Zealand, on 29 August 2000. Mark Edward Lundy (then age 43), Christine's husband and Amber's father, was arrested and charged with the murders in February 2001. In 2002 he was convicted of the murders after a six-week trial and was sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum non-parole period of 17 years. He appealed the conviction to the Court of Appeal; the appeal was rejected and the court increased his non-parole period to 20 years. In June 2013 the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council heard a further appeal, with the decision reserved after the three day hearing. In October 2013 the Privy Council unanimously allowed his appeal, quashed the convictions and ordered a re-trial. In April 2015 a second jury re-convicted him.
Mark and Christine Lundy had been married for 18 years; Amber was their only child. They jointly owned a kitchen sink business. In 1999, Lundy bought a vineyard in Hawke's Bay on which he still owed more than NZ$2 million in 2000.
Events on the day of the murders
The murders occurred sometime during the night of Tuesday, 29 August 2000. On that Tuesday morning, Lundy drove to Wellington on one of his regular business trips. He checked into a motel in Petone at around 5:00 pm. His wife or daughter called him on his cell phone in Petone to say they were going to McDonald's for dinner; the call ended at 5:43 pm. His cell phone records also show he made a call from Petone to a business partner of his Hawke's Bay wine-making venture at 8.28 pm. At 11:30 pm he called an escort service in Petone.
Christine Lundy took a call at home just before 7 pm that night. At 7:20 pm a witness described seeing a "suspicious looking jogger" nearby. The computer at the Lundy home was switched off at 10:52 pm.
The next morning Lundy called Christine's brother and asked him to check on Christine since she was not answering the phone. The brother went to the house about 9:00 am; getting no response, he broke in and found the bodies of Christine and Amber bludgeoned to death. Christine's body was on her bed; Amber's was on the floor in the doorway of Christine's bedroom. Both had died of head injuries caused by multiple blows from what was determined to be a tomahawk-like weapon or small axe. No weapon was found. A rear window had been tampered with and had Christine's blood on it. A jewellery box was later determined to be missing.
The prosecution contended that Lundy killed his wife for her life insurance money because of financial pressures on him, and killed his daughter because she was a witness. They said that after talking to his wife and daughter on the phone, Lundy got in his car and drove back to Palmerston North, bludgeoned his wife and daughter to death, changed his clothes, got rid of the evidence, altered the time on the family computer, ran back to his car wearing a blonde wig and then drove back to his motel in Petone at high speed.
The prosecution's case was also based on a speck of body tissue found on one of Lundy's polo shirts; the shirt was found along with other clothes and miscellaneous items on the back seat of his car. Although New Zealand pathologists could not identify it as Christine's brain tissue, a pathologist from Texas did. The prosecution argued the only way this brain tissue could have got on the shirt was if Lundy himself was the murderer. Later reports and tests by other experts cast doubt upon the identification of the material as brain tissue.
No weapon was ever found, but paint found in the hair of victims matched the paint Lundy used to mark the tools in his toolshed.
The prosecution called more than 130 Crown witnesses.
The defence called three witnesses including Lundy himself, who emphatically denied killing his wife and daughter. A key defence argument was that Lundy could not possibly have made the round trip from Wellington to Palmerston North and back in three hours, pointing out that Lundy's phone records prove that his phone was in Petone at 5:43 pm and at 8:48 pm. Regarding the brain tissue evidence, the defence noted that there was blood and tissue splattered everywhere including on the walls, the bed and the floor around the bodies but "his car, glasses, wedding ring, shoes and other clothes were all tested for blood or other tissue and absolutely nothing was found"; they said contamination could account for the tissue found on Lundy's shirt.
The jury deliberated for seven hours before finding Lundy guilty of the murder of his wife and child. He was sentenced to life in prison with a minimum non-parole period of 17 years.
Lundy's brother Craig, who gave evidence at the trial, has publicly stated that he believes Lundy is guilty, while his sister and brother-in-law have claimed his innocence.
Court of Appeal
In November 2012, Lundy applied to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council seeking permission to appeal his murder convictions. The appeal was based on three issues: the time of death, the time of shutdown of Christine's computer, and the presence of brain tissue on Lundy's shirt. Lundy's lawyer David Hislop QC claimed the evidence about the brain tissue presented at the first trial was "novel" in that it was based on a method which had never been tried before and was presented in a misleading manner.
The hearing before the Privy Council (including Chief Justice of New Zealand Dame Sian Elias) began on 17 June 2013 and lasted three days. On 4 October 2013, the Privy Council announced its decision to uphold Lundy's appeal. It concluded that his convictions were "unsafe" in light of the new evidence that had been presented, quashed the convictions and ordered a retrial. Mark Lundy was released from prison on 5 October 2013.
Other theories of the murders
Geoff Levick, who runs a campaign to have Lundy's conviction overturned, believes Lundy is innocent largely based on the time needed to travel from Petone to Lundy's house and return. He speculates that a creditor of Lundy's paid someone to go to Lundy's house to "teach him a lesson", but Lundy was not there and matters "got out of hand".
In 2009, North & South magazine published the results of an investigation into the case by Mike White titled The Lundy murders: what the jury didn't hear. Lundy would have had only three hours to make the return journey from Petone to Palmerston North, a round trip of approximately 290 km (180 mi), kill his wife and daughter, change his clothes and dispose of evidence; White contends that was not possible in such a short time frame. In order to make it back to Petone by 8.28 pm, Lundy would have had to drive to Palmerston North in rush hour traffic at an average speed of around 117 km/h (the maximum open road speed limit in New Zealand is 100 km/h), commit the crimes, and make the return journey back to Petone at an average speed of 120 km/h.
In 2012, documentary film maker, Bryan Bruce made an episode examining the Lundy case as part of his series The Investigator. Like others, Bruce believes that Lundy could not possibly have made the return trip in three hours, but he thought Lundy could have made the trip and committed the crimes later that night, returning to Petone in the early hours of the morning.
At the second trial, the Crown was led by Philip Morgan QC while the defence was led by David Hislop QC. Accepting the difficulty in the original case that there was insufficient time for Lundy to drive from Petone to Palmerston North and commit the murders before visiting the prostitute, the Crown changed its theory about when the murders occurred. The prosecution now alleged that Lundy drove to Palmerston North after visiting the prostitute and committed the murders in the middle of the night. This would have given him more time to drive back to Petone. On 1 April 2015, after deliberating for 16 hours, Lundy was found guilty a second time of murdering of his wife and child.
Lundy is appealing his second convictions. In August 2017, Mark Lundy released three letters to the media proclaiming his innocence ahead of the Court of Appeal hearing.
In July 2009, Salient editor Jackson Wood courted controversy by announcing the "Lundy 500", an event whereby teams of vehicles would "travel from Petone to Palmerston North as convicted double murderer Mark Lundy did in 2000, before murdering wife Christine and daughter Amber, according to the prosecution at his 2002 trial." Participants were tasked with doing the trip in 68 minutes or less, the same time Lundy is argued to have driven the distance. Wood argued that the "event was designed to draw attention to some of the inconsistencies in the New Zealand legal system", and emphasised that he wasn't encouraging anyone to break the law. However, the proposed event was harshly criticised in the media, and on August 2, it was announced that the event was to be cancelled. Wood apologised to the Lundy family and wrote that: "He acknowledged that their viewpoints were not adequately taken into account before the event was announced on Friday, and that there were other ways for this point to be communicated".
A similar re-enactment of the travel involved in the Lundy case, dubbed the "Lundy Three Hundy" was proposed in 2013 by Nic Miller. It was likewise criticised in the media, with Mathew Grocott writing that "this event should not go ahead and if those involved have any human decency then it won't go ahead."
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